Coloring Books: How Holland Came to Carmel California

When you think of Carmel by-the-Sea, you think ‘charming’ and maybe ‘quirky’.  After all, there are more than 40 unique courtyards and hidden passageways tucked into this one square mile village by the sea.  There are also houses called Hansel, Gretel, Snow White’s Summer Place, The Birthday House, the Doll House and many more with unusual names.  For more than 100 years, Carmel has inspired locals and visitors with its magnificent shoreline, eclectic bohemian style, and lush forest.

A Different Kind of Visitor

Coloring Book Carmel by the Sea California's Storybook TownOn one recent crisp winter afternoon with the sun just starting to warm the air, we had the pleasure of meeting one of those frequent visitors to Carmel.  But this visitor was different.  He had taken his passion for architectural renderings and his love of the style that is so uniquely Carmel and decided to create a coloring book about Carmel.  Not just a book that you read and then put down – you know the ‘coffee table’ book that you leave out for visitors.  He created an adult coloring book with 36 images that capture the spirit of Carmel by-the-Sea.  His book isn’t meant to be read.  It’s meant to engage the senses with blues and greens, golds and reds – any color that you could imagine for the charming homes, the languid beach scenes, the quaint cottages, the historic buildings, and the flora and fauna that are uniquely Carmel. (Be sure to read all the way to the end for a special video of the book!)

A Special Meeting at the Pine Inn Rotunda

One of the things that makes the story of his book, ‘Carmel-by-the-Sea: California’s Storybook Town Coloring Book for All Ages’ so interesting is that the author, Jan Kohler, is from the Netherlands.  Jan (pronounced YAN, meaning John) grew up in Holland.  We first learned about Jan from his wife, Donna, who had visited our website, and commented on one of our articles.  Through a series of emails, we learned that Jan and Donna now live in Fresno.  We thought it would be fun to meet on their next visit to Carmel.  Donna loves tea (and so do I), so I invited them to meet us at the Pine Inn in the rotunda.  It’s definitely a local hangout in the morning and we love sitting at one of the little round tables near that huge fireplace.

I wondered why a guy from the Netherlands would decide to create this beautiful coloring book about Carmel-by-the-Sea.  As Donna and Jan, and Bill and I sipped our coffee and tea in the rotunda, the story unfolded like another good book.  (Why is it that a story told with a charming Dutch accent, is even better?)

The Inspiration Behind the Book

“We lived in the medieval town of Amersfoort in Holland,” said Jan.

Donna and Jan Kohler author of the coloring book“We lived in the old center, full of historic and interesting buildings, where we could walk everywhere.  Carmel reminds us of our time there.  It satisfies our love of small, historic towns.  My wife, Donna, inspired me to create ‘Carmel-by-the-Sea: California’s Storybook Town.’  She told me that I should use my talents to illustrate a coloring book that was specifically drawn for coloring.  So I have her to thank for the book you see today.”

Who would have thought that a stroll down the streets of Carmel would remind a Dutchman of his old home town in the Netherlands?

Jan told us that he had become a freelance architectural illustrator in 1986.   During one of their many visits to Carmel, Jan began to think about how much he would enjoy capturing the beauty of the village.  Instead of just creating architectural renderings of buildings in town, Jan decided to blend architectural illustration with artistic license.  He wanted something that would let others enjoy Carmel as much as he did.  His wife, Donna, actually came up with the idea of crafting a coloring book that could be enjoyed by all ages.

The Incredible Images of Carmel by-the-Sea

We browsed through the book and loved all of the black and white drawings.  It includes the Tuck Box, Hugh Comstock cottages, beach scenes, charming cottage gates, historic buildings such as the Harrison Memorial Library and the Cypress Inn, courtyards, gardens….36 images in all just waiting for someone to put their colorful imagination to each drawing.

In addition to instantly wanting copies for my grandchildren (and one for me), I was curious about how the book was created.  So I asked Jan, “How do you get from looking at the Tuck Box to getting an artistic drawing into your book?”

Coloring Book Cottage of SweetsJan said, “I can tell you how I do it.  And I’ll even give you pictures that show you just what I do.”  Jan and Donna gave us some wonderful images and told us the complete process, which you can enjoy in the video at the end of this post.  Keep reading – you won’t want to miss it!

The Time Capsule

As we sat, infatuated with Jan’s stories (and his accent), a member of the Carmel City Council and good friend, Jan Reimers, stopped by to say hello.   It was a funny coincidence – Jan (Yan) and Jan.  And ironically, Jan Reimers’ husband Niels has his family heritage from Norway, so there was an instant connection.  Those things happen all the time in Carmel!  Especially at the rotunda at the Pine Inn, which is a magnet for local gatherings.  She took one look at the coloring book and asked, “How can I get a copy of the book?  We should put it in the time capsule for Carmel.  It’s a wonderful representation of our village.”

As luck would have it, Pilgrim’s Way Bookstore had just started to carry the coloring book.  So Jan, Jan (Yan), and Donna strolled off together to get a copy for the Carmel time capsule, which was going to be sealed that very afternoon at City Hall.

What’s Next for the Man From Holland?

Carmel notebook Coloring BookWhat’s next for the man from Holland?  “I’m already working on a Carmel Notebook,” said Jan in his charming accent.  It will include 80 drawings from around Carmel.  Some of the pages will be lined for writing and others will be blank, for drawing.  Each page will include one of the 80 images, all lovingly created by Jan. Here’s a sneak peek of three of those images, exclusively from

Submit Your Ideas!

Our lovely chat at the rotunda had come to an end…or maybe it was just an interlude.  We offered to help them with ideas for images to use in the upcoming Carmel Notebook.  And we even suggested that our readers would have some great ideas… so we would welcome suggestions from each of you in the comments below.  We will be sure to send them along to Jan and Donna.  You may see your idea included when the new notebook comes out!

How to Get Your Own Coloring Book

The minute we started to share ‘Carmel-by-the-Sea: California’s Storybook Town Coloring Book for All Ages’ everyone wanted a copy. You can pick one up  at Thinker Toys or Pilgrim’s Way Bookstore in Carmel by-the-Sea.  Or if you want to get it from the comfort of your home just click on the image below to get one sent to your door (or even to your kids or grandkids door!)

We hope you enjoy the video below, created from photos shared by Jan and Donna Kohler.  You will see exactly how Jan created the adult coloring book, California’s Storybook Town.  And you’ll also be whisked away to Jan’s homeland of Holland to see what inspired him and Donna to create a book about Carmel by-the-Sea.

Watch How Jan Created Carmel-by-the-Sea: California’s Storybook Town Coloring Book for All Ages

Image of Otter for I Love Carmel California

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